Take your eyes off the finish line

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For 16 years, I’ve lived across the street from one of the most beautiful places in Connecticut. The McLean Game Refuge is true luxury on top of the beauty of our rural farm town. McLean’s has been a source of fun, relaxation and consternation throughout my years in Granby. I was reluctant to explore at first, having moved to Granby from New York City. I had too much “Central Park Jogger” in my memory to truly enjoy the trails all by myself. But as the years have gone on and I’ve had more and more experiences, I’ve grown comfortable with being in there alone. I’m now much more afraid of running into a hungry mama bear than I am an assailant with a knife.

Through the years we’ve enjoyed many horseback rides on the yellow trail. Easy access from our farm makes it a popular place for a ride. In the early days, I always rode a follower-horse, as I was just learning the trails around Granby. 

I’ve even searched for my lost cows in McLean’s. Not once, but twice. The first time was in our early days of being cattlemen and knowing nothing about raising cows. The heifer we had just purchased escaped and ran away across the street. She ended up spending a lovely spring and early summer grazing the fields in McLean’s until she wandered into the backyard of one of the girls working for us for the summer. We were able to corral her and bring her home. 

The second time, I awoke to a call from the Granby police department. Some people out for a morning stroll in Salmon Brook Park had reported that my cows were also out for a morning stroll. I was able to follow the hoof prints across the street, past the playground and across the brook to McLean’s. Some mid-day hikers (I had been searching for the bovine for the better part of the day) pointed me in their direction—they were enjoying a nice easy hike on the main path. After getting the cows out to the parking area on the Rte. 10 side, I employed the help of generous neighbors. Mistakenly thinking they were going out for a hike on a beautiful day, the neighbors got to work helping me herd the rowdy and now nervous cattle back across the street to our property.

I love to run in McLean’s. About two miles of The Granby Road Race is run through the beautiful game refuge. Though the race runs up Canton Road and enters across from Glen Road, I usually run the loop backwards, entering at Salmon Brook Street. That makes for a very steep climb up the hill toward Canton Road. I’ve run that hill hundreds of times. Every time I start the ascent, my eyes are on the top of the hill. “It’s all downhill from the top of this hill,” I encourage myself as I slowly jog or hike straight up. But for the first-time last week, I noticed the yellow trail crossing this path a short way from the top. I knew the yellow trail would take me home through the woods instead of running down the beautiful but dangerous country roads. Yet I had never noticed it before. I had always run up that hill with my eyes focused to the top of it, never stopping to look around on the way up. I laughed at myself as I hopped over roots and dodged rocks on the way down the yellow trail.

What an unbelievable lesson the universe just taught me. Maybe right now, in our time of quarantine, we can stop and look around. Let’s not miss the beauty around us before we set our eyes on the finish again.